For something that has “universal” in its name, the USB standard is anything but. It is honestly all over the place. USB Type-C, a.k.a. USB-C, was supposed to become the end all and be all of USB connections but, that is only true in an ideal world. In the real world, devices still use non-reversible USB 3.0, even much older USB 2.0, connections. And to keep things moving forward, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group has just proudly revealed the existence of yet another one: USB 3.2.
So technically device makers now have 4 and half standards to follow and implement: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB Type C which covers both USB 3.1 Gen 1 and 2, and, now, USB 3.2. And while most of these are, admittedly, interoperable, provided you have the right plugs and slots, you don’t exactly get all the promised features unless you matching parts.
So what does USB 3.2 bring to the table anyway? Primarily twice the data transfer speed of USB 3.1, which is the standard used by USB-C. USB 3.1’s max speeds is 5 (Gen 1) or 10 (Gen 2) GBps, so, at least in theory, you can get as much as 20 Gbps. That is, if you have the right equipment.
USB 3.2 makes this speed boost possible by utilizing the multi-lane capabilities of USB-C. But what if you don’t have the hardware, like the right cable? You can still get as much as 2 Gbps using an older USB C cable connected to USB 3.0.
USB 3.2, however, isn’t yet finalized and won’t be until later this year. This means that USB 3.2 hosts, devices, and cables won’t be appearing until next year. And when it does, it will add to the already dizzying number of specs listed in marketing materials, not to mention potentially misleading packaging on third-party accessories.